Thursday, 30 September 2010

Deprived of Colour – My trip overseas

A recent trip overseas introduced me to a whole new culture very far from the one I have engrossed my self in. For security reasons I cannot disclose where I went but it was a Muslim country with some very strict rules, which of course I abided by. Prior to my departure I had to learn a lot about local customs and culture as not to offend anyone and not to draw unwanted attention to my self.

It was very hot out there and I had to remain covered at all times just like the girls out there, this I was not looking forward too. I am always modest in the summer normally a vest (not the strappy kind and ¾ length jeans is about summery as I get but out there in 41 degree heat I was expected to wear long baggy trousers and long sleeve tops, I had no choice and didn’t argue it just meant my company had to let me go out on a spending spree which was nice!

But it wasn’t as bad as I thought, the heat was horrific but I did not sweat, it was odd, even with everything covered and a long pashmena to top it off it was good.

As expected the women were totally covered, some you could not even see their eyes, there was such a deprivation of colour. The men were all dressed in white Didhdasha (long floor length robe) with gahfiyah and Gutra (head dress) which looked wonderfully cool.

They all looked comfortable in what they wore but in the back of my mind I was thinking how many chose and how many were forced to wear it.

Some times when I wake up in the morning and see by big red puffy face the bags under my eyes and the once small wrinkles I had slowly deepening I wish I had the option to hide my face, but surly not every day?

But I wasn’t there for a cultural learning experience I was there to work and sadly did not get to see much apart from the journey to work and the hotel after work.  During my time there I rarely saw any working locals they were all like me not from these parts, a lot of Indians, Bangladesh and Philippians and theses were the only locals I interacted with, who were of course were not covered head to toe and were displaying signs of their own faith.

I had one night prior to departure were I ventured in to a local shopping mall (of course with my work college), this was a experience. Plenty of locals here, lots of normal boring western shops. Mc Donald’s absolutely everywhere. The mall turned in to a food hall with lots of Fruit, then fish, then meat hanging by their rear legs with the head still on rapped in a bag, a bit disturbing, as the heads are not normally on display at home. Live chickens balding with no beaks squashed in to a cage with the cockerel strutting around signing his song at every opportunity. Enough to make you go vegetarian.

We wondered more into town into a covered market, were we were pestered in to coming in to shops and buying a nice scarf, it was ok as I already had one I didn’t bother. Some fantastic dresses were on sale here the sort that are worn under the Abayaya, long, still modest and romantic. Some simple some had fantastic embroidery. I was tempted to buy one to add to my multi cultural wardrobe, but as I was not haggled I assumed non-Muslim girl buying Muslim dress was a big no no, but no harm admiring these amassing garments.

This place was a far cry to the colourful world that I have engrossed my self in it was strange and alien but I enjoyed my time all the same

I had fun saree spotting at the airport!

A occasion for wearing a saree is presenting its self tonight at the theatre and I don’t know if I can do it. My diet is ongoing and I don’t feel slimmer, just feel softer. I fear that the gorgeous Organza saree I have will miss out on another opportunity for a first outing. Will try it on when I get home and decide then… There is always the back one! Black is very slimming on me!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

I can't answer this one, but will do my best!

I am also curious on why I am so interested in all things Indian. I think it is my school. I never had a religious education that half hour in every week was used for the Uncontrollable girls in my class to run riot and half the time had the teacher walk out.
As I get older and mix with more people in our multi cultural society I find my self totally naive to the cultural needs of others around me. I’m learning that it is just not religion but a way of life.
I love Indian food I think that is where it started. I was taken to a Indian Restaurant in Sutton and force fed Chicken Tika. Taking in the Indian Art and the Bollywood music around me. Going to see Michael Nyman Sangram with the Indian masters. Seeing all the sarees and salwars on the women in the high street and thinking how comfortable they must be to wear. Searching on the Internet and seeing how beautiful the sarees and salwars can be. Learning about the Ganesh and the many ways he got his elephant head, finding about Hinduism and then experimenting with real vegetarian Indian food. And now learning more about the daily life of a Hindu. it just hasn’t stopped and not too sure when it will.
As it stands at the moment is I don’t wish to be a Hindu I’m just very interested in Indian culture. For me, I feel if I should be Hindu, then should I not of been born into a Hindu family. There are a number of barriers also preventing me. The biggest I feel is the language barrier. I am severely dyslexic (which may explain a few spelling mishaps) learning a language has never been a good experience. I was pulled out of my French class when I was using French words in English text. Not only that, if you ever herd Derrick Trotter talking French I’m not too far from sounding like the female version of that! And the next biggest is knowing that I will properly never be taken seriously. Ive been told on a number of occasions that I must have been a Hindu in a previous life. I don’t like hearing that as if I was, what on earth did I do wrong to be born a non-Hindu!!!

I have learnt that a Hindu family have the most respect for each other. Take for example a recent event Rakhi, where the brothers swear to protect their sisters. I have two brothers, but we rarely communicate and I do feel that that has created a void of loss within me, and if I am quite honest I am very jealous of the Indian culture. I wish my up bringing had a bit more love and respect for each other and the divine in it. Of course there is a lot in the Indian culture I would like to not know about such as Sati (of course since out lawed) and the Caste system. I know it is not roses and as I continue to study nothing gets missed the good and bad!

I have no idea why I am so interested, I just am and I am enjoying it even though I am finding it hard to take in!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Now my head is really beginning to hurt!

I think I have overdosed on information what else can it be? Possibly my diet in between salads and tea, I must try and get some water down me.
On my third trip to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, London. I brought a fantastic book. Hindu rites and rituals. I have been busy reading that. I have learnt many things in the first chapter about the Mandir, why and how they are built. On to the next chapter now Prand Pratishtha (Image consecration) a bit more intense and not so easy to follow, but getting there.
One thing that nothing is making too clear for me is the Swaminarayan way. Do all temples worship Bhagwan Swaminarayan or do they focus their attention on another or a certain god?
Is Hinduism segregated in to God worship and Swami worship? I’m confused. But sure I will find out!

Did you know that on the 21st September 1995 murti’s worldwide drank milk!

And that the flags on top of the temple represent a deity’s hair

A bell with out a handle is forbidden in rituals since is may augur misfortune (that’s my bell going in the bin then!)

The Hare Kristina movement is slowly coming together in my mind, and it is something I cannot get too excited about. Knowing that Krishna is the 8th incarnation of Vishnu surly shouldn’t at least acknowledged  I guess I have always liked the bigger picture and properly explains why I am always so confused with trying to see it all and understand it at once!
The reading shall continue only after my headache has subsided.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Janmashtami 2010 Watford Bhaktivedanta Manor

Before I got there I first went to see Aatri at the BAPS Mandir in Neasdon. My little boy who normally does not know what the word still and quiet really surprised me. He sat there and clapped away to the music and was pleased to see Ganesh. It had been a long journey it said an hour and a bit on the sat nav. However my friend tom does not calculate London’s traffic well
It was an easy drive from the Mandir to the Manor and I was shocked at the scale of it all. It was massive I had to cue to get in and park and there was so much Land. In side there were some fantastic Rangoi. The cows where the most healthy and friendliest I have ever encountered there were many stalls spread out around the areas.

I chose not to wear a Saree. I could see my son at some point pulling it off. I was kicking my self, as I did feel a bit of the odd one out! There were so many sarees there, of all ages. I don’t often see young women in Sarees and it was so nice seeing them all out in force.

I’m not too sure what I was expecting I do not know much about the Hare Krishna movement and how it works with Hinduism. What I was expecting were thousands of white people doing the stereotypical kind of thing. But I felt quite ashamed of even thinking that, as this was simply not the case. I was there very early and sadly I could not stay too long as I did not fancy the long journey home with the home time London Traffic.

There was a garden with stepping stones where you take the beads and walk 108 steps with 108 chants. Of course my son bounded from one to the other and then ran off leaving me stranded in the middle, what could I do! I did not mean to offend any one by abandoning it, hope no one took offence.

I did feel like a outsider because basically I was, I went to a Hare Krishna festival not really knowing what it is all about. I have read chapters about Krishna and I’m half way through the Bhagavad Gita, which if I’m honest, I am really struggling with, but still I am a bit clueless. What is wrong with me, why do I have this inability to stop and ask?

Does a hare Krishna great Ganesh first? Why is Rama in the chant also? What are those little bags everyone had? Always questions. Was everyone there are Hare Krishna or is an event that involves both communities that is assuming there is a little bit of segregation. Please, teach me?

But yes, I did have a good time, but not a good opportunity to find out more about it. It was hot my son was running circles around me. But it was the lift I needed after the past few days of up set, which is another Blog altogether!

I will return to the Bhaktivedanta Manor during a more quieter time were I may find the courage to put my hand up and just ask!

So another outing with out a saree. Never mind. The next one is in the Diary to the theatre to see The People Romeo. Can’t wait.

For now I shall continue to read my books Hindu Gods and Goddesses and the BAPS book Hindu Rites and rituals!

I only took one Photo, this was the entrance
sorry about that!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Many thanks to all

Many thanks to Aamba for letting everyone know who I am; I was beginning to feel a bit by my self!
Thanks for all the comments also they mean so much. The photos down the side of this Blogg are of me, one of the better ones at least!

I have many outfits but like I said not many of them have left the house!

I would love to make my own Saree one day I’m working up to that one.

The opportunity is presenting its self for me to wear a Saree tomorrow as I have taken the day off work to travel up to Watford to visit Bhaktivedanta Manor which was donated to the Hare Krishna movement in the early 1970’s by former Beatle George Harrison Jasmashtami will be in full swing and I’m taking my little boy with me he is very lively and does nothing but run around, so I’m thinking a Saree will not be my best decision. Will see what the weather is doing.

I have no Idea what the Hare Krishna movement is but sure I will have the opportunity to find out tomorrow. If anyone can enlighten me before I leave I would be very grateful. Before I get there I hope to visit Neasden Temple to witness Aarti again. The opportunity presented its self last Friday I ran all the way across London and missed it by three minutes. Most up set with my self!

Again, many thanks to all who are showing an interest especially those at work who are giving me the opportunity to defend my obsession!
I will be in touch soon hopefully with some photos of Jasmashtami and all that I have learnt.